Commissioners Share More Than County Line
Some three decades ago, Alan and Jeff were working as road foremen in their respective counties driving machinery out where their precincts joined behind some old mines. The pair of county employees introduced themselves and decided to share their lunch break.
Looking back on that chance meeting, Lee County Commissioner Alan Turner and Milam County Commissioner Jeff Muegge are thankful that their paths crossed again years later, allowing for a professional association and fast friendship that has enriched their tenure as public servants, especially considering their similarities.
Along with serving as foremen, both aspired to be County Commissioners from early on.
Jeff, now in his 38th year with the county, worked for 12 years as foreman under a Commissioner he admired and respected.
“I knew I would never run against him,” Jeff recalled. “When he stepped down, he supported me. I stayed at the county with the goal to be a County Commissioner.” Jeff took office in 2011.
Alan, appointed as Commissioner in 2015, said the office of Commissioner “is always where I wanted to be.” Like Jeff, Alan is also in his 38th year with the county.
Alan grew up in Lee County, and Jeff grew up in Milam County. Both are in their 50s, both are married, and both have a son and a daughter. Both plan to stay where their roots have been firmly planted.
When asked about their motivation to serve, Alan and Jeff had simple yet reflective responses that can be summarized as follows: “It’s home. We care about our community, and we want to help take care of it.”
Running for office to “fix that one road” or address a singular problem is not a productive approach, they concurred. Jeff and Alan both ran to not only serve their precincts, but to affect the county as a whole. After all, it’s home.
Joint Projects, Shared Knowledge
Alan and Jeff both manage their precinct roads, and they both supervise road crews. There are a few roads that cross the county line, and these connections have led to interlocal agreements where the Commissioners have saved money by taking turns with the same piece of specialty equipment. On a similar note, Alan and Jeff have learned to bounce ideas off of one another, especially when it comes to prospective purchases.
“We share our insight with regard to equipment, including where we can find what we’re looking for and what equipment may work best in certain projects,” Jeff elaborated.
Both Lee and Milam counties are close to Austin, and both counties are experiencing growth-related issues. The counties have shared at least one working document related to subdivision regulations.
“Jeff and I, being friends and colleagues, can pick up the phone and ask, ‘Has this happened to you?’ ” Alan remarked. “We can ask, ‘How did you handle it?’ ”
“Sometimes, you just need to visit with someone who gets it,” Jeff added. Whether the issue be complex or simple, it helps to talk through situations with another official who can truly understand.
Commissioners Court members are subject to strict laws when it comes to open meetings, walking quorums, etc. Being from different counties, Jeff and Alan said they feel the freedom to talk in-depth and explore different angles of problems along with possible solutions, whether it be a road issue, budget concern, or community challenge. Of course, as friends, they also catch up on family news!
With Jeff retiring this year and Alan in 2024, County Progress asked these gentlemen to share words of wisdom.
1. Do not take your work home, they emphasized, especially the problems. Learn to leave work at the office.
2. Pray for wisdom.
“We talk about that a lot,” Jeff observed. “We are on the same page. When it gets really deep, and when it gets hard, prayer helps immensely.”
“You pray a lot in this position,” Alan echoed. “I ask for the Lord to help me do the best for the most people in my county. That is my prayer.”